By Caroline Crawford
I was as wide-eyed as I have probably ever been. It was day three of the World Race adventure, and we were just pulling into the relief camp where three thousand people were displaced from their homes. Three days earlier I was walking away from my parents wondering who in the world I was going to come back as and come back to. Seventy-two hours later I found myself crammed on a tiny bus with twenty-six other people who had also made what felt at that moment like the most impulsive decision possible. I mean really, what in the world I was I doing?
Just as my wandering thoughts were about to take me to home and family and missing both, the bus stopped and we were at our destination: Tambo de Mora, home to hundreds of families who had just months before been devastated by the destruction of their homes. A powerful earthquake had taken place, destroying block after block of stores, homes, and buildings. Nothing was left. They had lost it all.
I stepped off the bus and was instantly pounced on by a swarm of children screaming, “gringo! gringo!” Before me was a small one square-mile block of tarp-covered little units, clearly the new “homes” for these families. Instantly, people began walking out from behind their tarps and peering around the corner, staring in bewilderment at this group of white people who just arrived at their place. We were about to find out just how neglected they really were in this area, making the impact of our arrival that much more meaningful.
We quickly began dispersing into groups of three or four and began walking around the area, ready to meet the families who were living there. We weren’t there to play savior to them, we were there to listen. To love. To just be.
It didn’t take long into the conversations to learn the reality of their situation. Over three thousand people were living in this place with most families given an allotted space the size of an average room. They are supplied nine kilos of rice and one can of tuna each month. There were about nine portable toilets that were supplied for the use by the entire community. Fleas and insects continually infested their homes, leaving bite marks that were uncontrollably itchy all over their bodies. The government seemed to have done nothing to help their situation although millions of dollars were donated for the relief effort. And if all that wasn’t bad enough, the woman who owned the land of the relief camp was at that very moment trying to kick them all out.
And there we were, most of us having never been in the presence of such poverty, injustice, and total neglect – wondering what in the world we could offer to them. Within an hour of being there, we were all feeling heavy with the weight of the problems and hurts of this place. These people were the forgotten. It was almost time to leave and we were heading back to the bus, talking through some of the problems and ways to bring physical relief, when a woman ran up to us. She quickly asked us if we would go pray for her sick sister. We, of course, agreed and began following her back to her place.
And then everything seemed happened at once. Hysteria broke out, bone-shrieking cries erupted and before we knew it, the woman who had just approached us to go pray for her sister was passed out in the arms of another woman who was weeping as well. Through all the screams and noise that ensued, we learned that the immediate moment after the woman asked us to pray for her sister, she found out her sister was dead.
Another woman ran and got some alcohol to wake up the passed out sister and we ran to the house where her dead sister was. There we were, five of us running through this community, in total disbelief about what was going on. And then one of the leaders with us asked the question that probably up until that moment I was sure I would never be asked: “So who wants to raise the dead today?”
Without even thinking about what we were saying, we all piped in with a yes, wondering what in the world we were doing or were about to do. None of us could deny that this is what we signed up for not classes to teach us the theology behind why miraculous things could possibly happen today, but the opportunity to be thrown into the deep end of the pool on all of this and learn to swim.
When we got to the place, another of the teams was already there, having walked in moments before the woman collapsed back and died. From outside of the place, all you could hear were guttural sobs from her family. It was utter chaos all around, with person after person running into the place as the news begins spreading throughout the community. Instantly, without thinking, we all fell to our needs, faces-in-the-dirt, and began crying out to the Lord. It wasn’t a conscious choice that we should begin praying now it literally was the only thing we could do and so without even thinking, down we went.
We got there thinking it was time to raise the dead and while I definitely wasn’t trained nor probably prepared for that one, I was ready to go after it. But quickly we all sensed that wasn’t the reason for our presence there. And so I prayed all that I could think of praying. That He would come. That He would comfort. Honestly, I just prayed He would do anything…anything at all. What can you really pray in a situation like this except the very name of Jesus? And so, for the next hour, we wept. We cried out for Him to come. And we waited.
There is no manual for this kind of stuff. There is no prep course that you go through to figure this out. This is the real, raw part of life where faith and need intersect only at the name of Jesus. This is where self is instinctively put aside and the need of others shoots to the top priority. Simply, this is where faith in Jesus is all you can stand on and all you can offer.
It’s the real life moments like this that change you. They just do. It is in those moments of utter helplessness that you come to new depth of understanding about the ultimate, all-encompassing power of the One who promised He held all authority and power to heal the sick, raise the dead, and proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven is here. I don’t think you can know just how great and awe-some, in its true meaning, He is until you are put into a place where you realize just how ineffectual you are without Him. And so there I was, with no choice but to lean totally and completely on Him.
Seventy-two hours into the race, with over three hundred to go, and already I was learning the real stuff of life that you are likely to only grasp when you’re taken out. Already I was seeing Him in His power, being lead to new depth of dependency and realizing what this world really isn’t benefiting from just saved Christians who come in and smile pleasantly, but is changed when forceful followers advance in led by the Spirit and begin speaking with authority dead things to life.
Day three of the race and I was beginning to see it.
He’s got it. I need it. He offers it.
And I get to walk in it.
Life this side of Heaven is about seeing dead things come to life. It’s not just about just being saved and living a pleasant life. It’s about turning the barrenness into Garden of Eden once again. And this community that was neglected and forgotten and thrown into outcast-corner was longing for life to spring up in that place. The woman didn’t rise again that day, but life began blossoming through the death. God always seems to work in the exact way contrary to how the wor
ld would see it. Death happened and life came as those twenty or so wide-eyed American kids got thrown into the deep end and began ministering hope and redemption out of their realization that He’s got everything needed.
Caroline just got back from traveling the world for the last year, getting wrecked and awakened through the pilgrimage. She is currently living in Port Huron, MI where she is working for the World Race, dreaming of seeing a generation empowered and mobilized so real Kingdom change comes to manifest itself in this world.